10 Way To Keep Your Dogs Immunity Strong
Throughout life our immunity fluctuates depending on how we feed ourselves, the activities we choose to engage in and genetics.This same process also happens to our beloved pets. Thankfully, we have the ability to help support their immune systems so they can stay strong, healthy and vibrant into their older years.
Let's get into it!
First I want to give an analogy to help get a better understanding of our immune system and medicinal herbs that help it in different ways. Think of a castle. Your dogs body is the castle and it has defenses to protect it from invaders.
Castle Wall : Your dogs castle (his body) can slowly build a high wall around it (his immunity) so bacteria and viruses can not get through. At this point his body won't be desirable to pathogens. Bacteria and viruses thrive in poor host conditions. Its easier to live in and take over someone with a lower immune system than a strong immune system. Ideally, these herbs should be taken while your dog is NOT sick. They do not fight against pathogens that are currently in or around your body like the below categories. They build resistance over time so getting into the castle is not attainable.
Examples: Reishi Mushroom, Turkey Tail Mushroom, Astragalus Root
Warriors : Your dogs body has the ability to send out warriors to fight off incoming invaders (bacteria / viruses). You can help these warriors be put into action by administering "activating" and "stimulating" herbs. These stimulate your dogs immune system to fight off whatever is trying to attack it.
Examples: Echinacea, Elderberry, Calendula
Bombs : Another option you can provide for your pup is antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and antibiotic herbs. These act like bombs coming from the castle to try and destroy any bacterial or virus in or around the castle. These can have good effects by killIng the pathogens that are present but they do not increase your dogs immunity in the long run. For full protection after using these herbs it is advised to work on building (not stimulating) your dogs immunity afterwards. Some of these herbs, especially Oil of Oregano are so strong that they will kill off the good bacteria along with the bad. It is important to feed probiotics afterwards to replenish your dogs beneficial bacteria.
Examples : Goldenseal, Olive Leaf, Cats Claw, Oregano Oil
I'll reference back to this analogy with some of the herbs we are going to talk about.
1) Astragalus Root
Astragalus root is one of the immune BUILDERS that works on building and strengthening your dogs immunity (castles wall) on a deep level. Astragalus can be given as capsules, as an extract and can be made into a decoction / tea and mixed into your dogs food.
2) Mushrooms - Turkey Tail & Reishi
Turkey Tail and Reishi mushrooms work in a similar way as Astragalus Root does. They also BUILD your dogs immunity over time and help create a barrier making it more difficult for pathogens to invade the body. Mushrooms can be given as a decoction (simmered in water for 15 minutes) and poured over food, as a capsule or extract. Mushrooms are difficult to break down and digest so its always advisable for them to be heat treated (cooked) or hot water treated (decoction / tea) for best absorption.
If your pooch is seeming to feel a little under the weather or anyone in the household is under the weather, giving your dog some echinacea can help fight off the circulating germs. Echinacea is an immune stimulator and activator. It helps your body to activate its "WARRIORS" and battle off any pathogens trying to invade the castle (you dogs body).
Echinacea can be given as an extract, powdered over food or made into a tea and poured over food. This tea has a bitter, numbing sensation to the mouth so that could be a turn off for some pups. Just figure out how your dog is willing to take it!
4) Oregon Grape Root
Oregon Grape Root is an antibacterial that is commonly used for canines. It is used for a range of infections including fungal infections. It also helps slow the growth of bacteria making it easier for you to get ahead of an infection. This type of remedy would be considered a "BOMB" that is thrown to stop and kill pathogens within the "castle" (your dog). Oregon Grape Root is usually given in extract form.
Burdock root is an amazing herb that cleanses the blood, detoxifies the liver and is a natural prebiotic (food for beneficial probiotic bacteria). Burdock is also a powerful antioxidant that helps balance out free radical damage. This relieves your dogs body of extra stress from toxins in the environment. Burdock can be taken as an extract, in capsules, made into a decoction and poured over food or powdered root can be mixed into your dogs food.
6) Bone & Vegetable Broth
Broth made with bones, cartilage and vegetables provides a lot of nutrition in a small amount of liquid. Bone broth provides glutamine which strengthens and heals the digestive tract. The combination of bone and vegetables in the broth provides a variety of vitamins, minerals and amino acids to replenish your dogs body and builds their immunity. Broth can either be poured over food, made into ice cubes to chomp or given as is in a bowl.
Probiotics are essential for a healthy microbiome in the digestive tract. We need beneficial bacteria to balance our bad bacteria, help digest food and assimilate nutrients properly. When the body isn't allocating a lot of energy to digestion, it has the capacity to use that energy to heal the body daily. Probiotics help the digestive tract operate efficiently which in turn provides the body the opportunity to focus on healing. You can find powdered probiotics at many pet shops or health food stores that can be easily poured into their food.
8) Whole foods
No, not the store. A diet consisting of whole, nutritionally dense, vibrant foods that are species specific can make the biggest difference in your dogs health. Dogs are not carnivores (even though they thrive on a good amount of high quality meat!) They also benefit from vitamins and minerals from vegetables, herbs, spices and some fruits. No matter what diet your dog does best on or what you can afford, the addition of whole foods to their meals will support their immune system and help them thrive.
9) Daily Exercise
Exercise is just as important for our dogs health as it is for ours. It boost serotonin and makes them feel their best. It also has the same benefits for their bodies as it does for ours. Ideally, a daily walk should be non-negotiable. You both get a health boost!
10) Fresh Air
What we breath in, we become! Fresh air helps oxygenate our lungs and all our cells. If you can, bring your dog to a place out of the smog or city air to get a re-boost for their cells. Who knew the simplest things can make such a difference!
When we know how to support our dogs immune system throughout our day to day we can help prevent more serious issues from arising. By simply being aware of how our dogs immune systems work and how to support them, we are giving our beloved pets a better chance at a healthy, happy and long life!